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16 Examples of Animals that Migrate (A to Z List & Pictures)

animals that migrate

Migration is the essence of the survival of some animal species. In search of a new home, some animals will travel the world to find the most suitable conditions for their survival.

Some travel by land, others by flying, while some animals do it by swimming. Animals that migrate are some of the most resourceful animals in the world.

Animals that migrate are different to nomadic animals because migrants often have homes that they return to yearly while nomadic animals wander endlessly without a home to return to.

Examples of Animals that Migrate (List)

These are some of the most fascinating animals that migrate.

1. Arctic Terns

Arctic Tern
Scientific NameSterna paradisaea
ClassificationBird
Size15 in
ColorWhite
HabitatCoastal regions

The arctic tern is one of the most fascinating migratory species on earth. In a single year, it will migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back, covering up to 12.000 miles in one single migratory year. And these numbers are just the estimates – some birds might fly up to 40.000 miles in one year!

2. Atlantic Salmon

Chinook Salmon
Scientific NameSalmo salar
ClassificationActinopterygii
Size30 in
ColorGray
HabitatOcean, freshwater bodies

Some salmon of this species will migrate to freshwater bodies and remain there. Others will migrate in oceans. When they migrate, the salmon will look for appropriate areas where they can settle – salinity is one of the biggest issues for them when they migrate.

3. Bar-Tailed Godwits

Bar-Tailed Godwit
Scientific NameLimosa lapponica
ClassificationBird
Size31 in
ColorOrange, black, white
HabitatCoasts, estuaries

In what is one of the longest non-stop trips by any migrating animal, the bar-tailed godwit will travel from Alaska to New Zealand. This long trip is over 18.000 miles long, so it takes a lot of strength and determination for this interesting bird to reach its end destination.

4. Bats

bat
Scientific NameChiroptera
ClassificationMammal
Size6 in
ColorBlack
HabitatCaves, various

Did you know that even bats migrate from time to time? They move between summer and winter habitats as they prefer warmer climates. However, their migrations are relatively short, especially when compared to bird migrations. At most, bats will migrate for up to 1200 miles in one migrating season.

5. Canada Geese

canada geese
Scientific NameBranta canadensis
ClassificationBird
Size43 in
ColorGray, white, black
HabitatNear freshwater sources

Highly aggressive in nature, the Canada goose knows how to protect its territory. But it’s also good at finding the right habitats to survive, so they will often migrate. They establish breeding colonies and they will migrate to and from these when they are breeding.

6. Crabs

Crab
Scientific NameBrachyura
ClassificationMalacostraca
SizeUp to 13ft (leg span)
ColorGray, red
HabitatOceans, beaches

Crabs are also migratory animals. Most crabs migrate when they release their larvae, as they search for the best conditions possible for breeding. This is necessary for them if they want to produce the highest quality larvae possible.

7. Gray Whales

gray whale
Scientific NameEschrichtius robustus
ClassificationMammal
Size16 ft
ColorGray
HabitatOcean

The gray whale is one of the many whale species that migrate. While not all specimens of this species will move, most of them will migrate between Alaska and Russia and to Baja California in search of better living conditions.

8. Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale
Scientific NameMegaptera novaeangliae
ClassificationMammal
Size52 ft
ColorGray
HabitatOceans

The humpback whale will migrate to up to 16.000 miles each year in search of better living conditions. They prefer to feed in polar waters, but they will move to warmer water bodies when they are breeding or about to give birth.

9. Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly
Scientific NameDanaus plexippus
ClassificationInsect
Size4 in
ColorOrange-black
HabitatForests, grasslands

In the autumn, the monarch butterfly will leave its home and migrate in search of warmer weather. During that season, it will migrate from the northern states in the United States and southern Canada to southern US states such as Florida. 

10. North Atlantic Right Whales

right whale
Scientific NameEubalaena glacialis
ClassificationMammal
Size52 ft
ColorGray
HabitatNorth Atlantic

Because North Atlantic right whales are often hunted for their fish oil, they are one of the most endangered species in the world. They are also heavily dependent on their migrations, as they will migrate from their feeding grounds in the Labrador Sea and the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

11. Reindeer

reindeer
Scientific NameRangifer tarandus
ClassificationMammal
SizeUp to 5ft
ColorGray-black
HabitatForests

The reindeer is another fascinating animal that migrates. Not all reindeer will migrate – some are also sedentary animals. Most of the migrations are seasonal. The Siberian tundra reindeer are the largest reindeer that migrate, and they are also the most populous – up to an estimated 1 million of these animals exist.

12. Sea Turtles

sea turtle
Scientific NameCheloinoidea
ClassificationReptile
Size4 ft
ColorBrown
HabitatOcean

Sea turtles will mostly migrate when they breed. This might include long-distance migrations before they reach their spawning areas. They have excellent navigational skills and they will use several cues from their environment to find their way when they migrate, such as orientation using light.

13. Sharks

great white shark
Scientific NameSelachimorpha
ClassificationChondrichthyes
SizeUp to 40ft
ColorGray
HabitatOcean

Lastly, we need to mention sharks. Many shark species will migrate from territory to territory, looking for newly suitable areas to live in. One of the main driving factors for their migration is their search for food, as they look for new food sources.

14. Snow Geese

snow geese
Scientific NameAnser caerulescens
ClassificationBird
Size31 in
ColorWhite, black
HabitatVarious

The snow goose is a goose species endemic to North America. You’ll find both white and black goose, and some people also call them blue goose. They migrate from late May to mid-August and they will migrate from colder to warmer climates and vice-versa.

15. Wildebeest

Wildebeest
Scientific NameConnochaetes
ClassificationMammal
SizeUp to 5ft
ColorBrown
HabitatOpen woodlands

Not all wildebeest species are migratory, but many of them are. Black and blue wildebeest will mostly migrate in search of better living conditions. The most important driving factor for their migrations is the food – they need to look for new sources of food constantly to survive, so they will often move around.

16. Zebra

zebra
Scientific NameHippotigris
ClassificationMammal
Size5 ft
ColorBlack and white
HabitatSavannas, grasslands

The zebras are heavily dependent on water. They are constantly moving around to find the best possible areas where they get enough of it. That isn’t always easy for them, as migrating might mean moving into habitats with new and more potent predators. They’re hard to catch though.

Conclusion

Animals that migrate are some of the most adaptable animals in the world. Some will travel seasonally and over shorter distances, others will travel thousands of miles in search of a new home.

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